The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Kaia Reznicek '23 RGLP Reflection

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I grew up in a multicultural household of cultures that should supposedly have been drastically different yet with parents who carried these supposed dissimilarities in remarkably similar ways. They were both immigrants and consequently their drive and ambition for a good life for their families constantly shined through. However, I always felt that the rich mesh of culture and experience was always diluted by my setting. I grew up in a very white Boulder, CO where I began to understand my half-Chineseness as one of my defining characteristics. Thus, I would never admit that I felt completely lacking in my understanding of Chinese culture. I would never admit that I felt much more acclimated to my Czech roots, having grown up living a short drive to my Czech grandparents, their Czech cooking, and their rich Czech accents. Going to Dartmouth, thrown into a new space, I was forced to grapple with the role that my ethnicity played on my sense of self and understanding of my own culture. I was suddenly surrounded by students who had grown up speaking Chinese, who were full Chinese and some who were Chinese international students. I began to ask the question: “Do I continue to allow my Chinese identity to exist as a staple of my self perception, or do I no longer meet the relative criteria in this new setting?” A lot of words were thrown my way, Wasian, First Gen, Mixed, Ambiguous, Exotic. I had been presented with a whole new palette with which I was asked to paint my identity. I let myself exist in the unknowing, in the ambiguous and let myself naturally fall into the definitions that feel right, or the lack of definition. This zone of transition taught me the significance of space. Space and experience, when we are young and still malleable, is incredibly impactful.

I think that the most challenging aspects of global collaboration are overcompensation and judgement. If we are too desperate to please, we are obsessed with perception rather than relationship. In this mindset, a sense of intimacy is lost. Judgement of others' culture even if subconscious, is a damaging mindset for global cooperation and one that I often catch myself adopting. In approaching a culture different from one’s own, I believe that curiosity and acceptance are the best default approaches. If we accept first that there is beauty to any given culture, I believe that we begin to search for the value that they might add to a setting of collaboration rather than the ways potential clash/conflict might occur.

In a workplace setting, studies have shown that diversity fosters creativity and productivity. This is even greater incentive to design a workplace that makes all people across every spectrum feel heard and valued. I think that one way that this could be facilitated is through vulnerable and intimate conversation with a variety of people about whether or not they feel comfortable voicing their opinion, and feel that the workplace culture that exists, encourages and actively seeks out their perspectives.

Written by Kaia Reznicek, a member of the Winter 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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